The State of Trinity
Commencement Remarks 2008
by President Patricia McGuire ’74
Each year at Commencement, the president offers a few reflections on the state of Trinity and the larger world we inhabit. I am pleased to tell you that the state of Trinity is quite well. Let me recount just a few of the many achievements of our students, faculty and staff.
In the College of Arts and Sciences:
- A member of this class who has already demonstrated considerable leadership during her Trinity years, serving as Student Government President, playing volleyball and lacrosse, a T-Pin winner who is graduating Phi Beta Kappa and magna cum laude, received her bars as a lieutenant in the United States Air Force at a commissioning ceremony this week. Lieutenant Ashleigh Wesche, we salute you!
- Rihem Badwe, recipient of the Mary Murray McArdle Award, has been accepted into the doctor of pharmacy program at Albany College.
- Jessica Dickerson, recipient of the St. Catherine Medal, has been accepted into the University of Maryland Baltimore County where she will work on her master’s degree in industrial organizational psychology.
- Vanessa Miranda was selected to be a Chips Quinn Scholar, a prestigious and competitive program sponsored by the Freedom Forum that provides journalism students of color with hands-on training and mentoring opportunities.
- Charlynn Burgess will attend Hood College for her master’s in biomedical science.
- Melissa Herrera will attend Catholic University for her master’s degree in social work.
- Gianoula Sideris will pursue her master’s degree at Argosy University.
- Allison Portee, a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences, has been named to a prestigious White House internship.
- Tykaria Watts, a junior, was selected for participation in Boston University’s summer international program, through which she will spend the summer in Senegal living with a local family, studying the Wolof language and Senegalese culture and economy.
- Nicole Bracey and Janeashia Williams were selected for the highly competitive Congressional Black Caucus internship program.
- Maria Espinoza, an international affairs major, completed a very successful internship in Congressman Jim Moran’s office.
- Four Trinity undergraduates were selected in a competitive process to participate in the ATHGO forum at the United Nations, including Janelle McGowan-Sylvan, Alejandra Barbarena, Kindra Cantrell and Heizel Zelaya.
- Eight Trinity undergraduates participated as moderators and presenters in the CAAPS (Capital Area Association of Peace Studies) Conference at George Washington University, including Terri Alford, Jennifer King, Kemi Osho, Neama Ali, Brigid Otieno, Angela Puryear-McDuffie, Christina Harper and Monique Beach.
- Brigid Otieno won a place in the highly competitive Charles B. Rangel Summer Program for International Affairs at Howard University.
In the School of Education:
- Natalie Stephenson, who is receiving her master’s degree in educational administration, was named an “Agnes Meyer Teacher of the Year” by the Washington Post, one of the highest honors for teachers in this region.
- Jonathan Mathis, a member of the School of Education’s school administration program who will complete his master’s degree in August, has received the University of Southern California Provost’s Ph.D. Fellowship, the most prestigious university-wide graduate program at USC, made up of scholars selected from a highly competitive applicant pool. “Only candidates identified as having the highest potential to become future leaders in their discipline are invited to become Provost Ph.D. Fellows,” according to the program director’s award letter.
- Melissa M. Sheow will pursue her doctorate in management and leadership at the University of Phoenix School of Advanced Studies.
- In the School of Professional Studies, we are thrilled to recognize the first three graduates of Trinity’s associate degree program at THE ARC: Allene David, Danielle Gregory and Glenda Smith. All three are already enrolled in the baccalaureate programs on our main campus, and all three are on the dean’s list.
- Also in the School of Professional Studies, we are thrilled to recognize the first three graduates of Trinity’s Nursing Program: Bernadette Mukanduranaka Denis, Steven Charles Simms and Bridgette Yvonne Tucker.
Among the Faculty:
- Among faculty achievements, Dr. Robert Maguire of the international affairs program has received the Jennings Randolph Senior Research Fellowship from the United States Institute of Peace.
- Dr. Mary Lynn Rampolla of the history program recently gave a paper at the 43rd International Congress on Medieval Studies entitled “Writing the Middle Ages: Teaching History and Writing in the Medieval Classroom” in a session on Teaching the Middle Ages and Writing Across the Curriculum. Dr. Rampolla’s book, A Pocket Guide to Writing in History, will be going into its 6th edition with Bedford/St. Martin’s in 2009.
- Caryn Hines, an attorney who is also an adjunct faculty member in our School of Professional Studies, has been appointed to the bench as an administrative law judge in the District of Columbia.
- Writing program professor Wendy Bilen Thorbjornsen published Finding Josie, a family history focusing on her grandmother Josie Broadhead who was raised on the North Dakota Prairie.
- Economics professor Mary Reintsma has published The Political Economy of Welfare Reform in the United States.
- The end of the academic year also means we salute and express our gratitude and thanks to those members of our faculty who are retiring: Father Michael Gallagher of our theology program, who completed his pre-retirement sabbatical this spring, and Dr. Sharon Shafer of the music program who is beginning her sabbatical.
Proud as we are of the achievements of so many members of the Trinity community, we are mindful that the state of our world is perilous. Our once-robust economy is faltering; our insatiable demands for credit, for fossil fuels, for material goods are fostering economic catastrophes around the globe. The dollar is in serious decline abroad, but oil companies grow richer, and rising fuel prices make all consumer goods more expensive. The poor of the earth grow more impoverished each day. The rising prices that are inconveniences here translate into food shortages, malnutrition, disease and death in too many villages around our global community.
Tragically, the vast resources of the United States that could be used for so much good at home and abroad are, instead, now pouring billions of dollars per month into a war without apparent end. We are grateful for the tremendous sacrifices and courage of our military women and men, but we must insist on their safe return soon to home base. The next administration, of whatever party may win the White House, must bring an end to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yes, the threat of terrorism remains grave, but we must insist that American military power be used with greater intelligence, humanity and responsibility to keep the peace, not to foment more conflict.
Forty years ago this year, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., died on a balcony in Memphis. In the terrible crucible of that tragic year, in which Robert F. Kennedy was also assassinated during his presidential campaign, cities burned and the dream of a truly equal, peaceful society seemed to go up in smoke as well. Now, four decades later, an African American candidate for the presidency has galvanized the nation, possibly taking his party’s nomination, and without a doubt changing the political opportunities for African Americans in this nation forever. At the same time, the first serious female candidate for the presidency has also gained considerable credibility for the possibility that, someday, a woman might also become president. Unfortunately, however, as a result of the media forces that prefer to exalt synthetic gladiators over genuine leaders, all three presidential candidates have spent more time attacking each other than addressing the specifics of the change they could make in our world. The idea of change is only meaningful when change actually occurs for the better; we need to know more about the real changes each presidential candidate might actually achieve so that our votes will be affirmatively in favor of the best plan, the most hopeful platform, the most likely solutions to the challenges we face together, particularly on issues of economic justice and peace.
What does this election have to do with you, the Class of 2008? With your degrees today, you accept a large responsibility for participation in the governance of this nation. The most fundamental duty is voting, of course. But those hoods you wear today also identify you as leaders in the community, as role models and exemplars for your families, children, neighbors and friends. You will set the tone and the pace, you will shape opinions. You have a distinct obligation as educated people, as Trinity graduates, to be as informed as possible on the issues in this and all elections, to participate effectively in the political process, to ensure that all voters have the chance to exercise their rights completely. You can make up your own minds about who to vote for, but you must vote – this election, every election.
A few weeks ago, Pope Benedict XVI was in our neighborhood, addressing the presidents of Catholic colleges and universities at Catholic University. He offered thanks and praise for the good work of Catholic schools, and challenged us to work even harder to manifest our religious and moral values in all that we do. He was particularly clear in noting that our mission as Catholic educational institutions is not about how many Catholics we serve, but rather, about how we live and teach our values to the entire human community. “A university or school’s Catholic identity is not simply a question of the number of Catholic students,” he said, “It is a question of conviction…”
A question of conviction. Conviction about the imperative to work for social justice in this world, to be beacons of hope, bearers of wisdom, bridges to peace.
Your conviction will be clear in the work that you will choose from this day forward. Whatever the specific job you occupy – and chances are you will have many jobs – the work itself, and the ways in which you choose to accomplish the work, will reveal your conviction to your employer, co-workers and clients: your conviction to do everything with excellence, which is, in itself, a moral good; to achieve your work with the highest standards of ethics and integrity; to have the courage to risk your job by challenging discrimination and unethical business practices.
Living your convictions will mean taking risks in all that you do.
Your conviction will cause you to take the risk of ridicule when you advocate peace in a time of war; when you demand racial justice in a culture that too-often denies its own prejudice; when you denounce the violent selfishness that turns too many street corners into roadside shrines to those struck down by the prevalence of guns; when you stand up for the dignity of human life at all stages of life, in all circumstances, for all people, even those we call the enemy or the criminal.
Your conviction will cause you to take the risk of standing up in the public square to be a voice demanding justice for those who are voiceless, to stand in solidarity with the victims of oppression and war and poverty and violence, whether in Dakar or Tibet, Zimbabwe or Afghanistan, or here in Ward 5 or across the river in Ward 8.
Your conviction will cause you to take the risk of supporting unpopular remedies to improve public education for our children, to give the hard choice a decent chance to be successful, to set aside personal desires for the sake of improving opportunities for all children to learn successfully.
Your conviction will cause you to take the risk of living with less material comfort because you choose work that serves others but doesn’t pay much, or because you choose to give away some of those hard-earned dollars to make life a little easier for those who are in need.
Your conviction will cause you to take the risk to volunteer, sharing your few once-leisure hours in productive ways for the common good.
Your conviction will cause you to take the risk of running for office, whether the local ANC or PTA or school board or city council. Who knows, you might follow in the footsteps of some well known Trinity graduates and take the risk of running for Congress, for the governor of a state, even for higher offices.
Trinity graduates are at the center of the most consequential issues of our day. The Speaker of the House, the Governor of Kansas, the chief manager of one of the major presidential campaigns are all Trinity graduates. We count numerous state and even federal judges among our alumnae, and local elected officials as well. The voices of Trinity graduates in the public square are clear, strong and urgent, manifesting that sense of conviction that is a hallmark of our Trinity education.
Go forth with conviction. Go forth blessed with the courage, the knowledge, the integrity, the charity that are the deepest values of Trinity. Through the light of your learning you will bring hope to the lives of so many others. You will be exemplars of conviction and models of courage for your families and communities. Go with the blessings of the Trinity, the power that supports you, the wisdom that sustains you, the love that surrounds you all through your lives.
Congratulations, Class of 2008!